Photo courtesy MSU Athletics
STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) — Mississippi State's Victoria Vivians and Teaira McCowan scored a bunch of points and grabbed a bunch of rebounds, just like they do almost every game.
But coach Vic Schaefer said some hard-nosed defense from backup guards Jazzmun Holmes and Jordan Danberry was the catalyst that led No. 4 Mississippi State to a 75-61 victory over Alabama on Sunday.
"Jazz and Jordan came in during that second quarter and really made a difference," Schaefer said. "They played extremely well and impacted the game."
Mississippi State (19-0, 5-0, Southeastern Conference) earned its 11th straight victory by double digits, but this one was more difficult than most.
Alabama (13-5, 3-2) recovered from a shaky first few minutes to take a surprising 20-16 lead at the end of the first quarter. Hannah Cook hit a pair of 3-pointers to jump-start the Crimson Tide's offense.
A frustrated Schaefer inserted Holmes and Danberry into the game, and that's when things started to turn around. The duo helped force 10 Alabama turnovers during the second quarter as the Bulldogs rallied for a 44-29 lead by halftime.
"It's hard to be 19-0 in this league," Schaefer said. "We've played an incredibly tough schedule, but you know what, we've played it with some incredibly tough kids."
Vivians scored 21 points while McCowan had 19 points and 16 rebounds for her SEC-leading 14th double-double. Vivians scored in double figures for the 18th time in 19 games this season. Roshunda Johnson added 14 points.
Vivians said she wasn't surprised that some of the team's best moments on Sunday came when backups were on the floor.
"We feel like the starters can take a break, other people can come in and make the game better," Vivians said.
Alabama was led by Cook, who scored 25 points on 8 of 10 shooting from the field, including 5 of 5 from 3-point range. Jasmine Walker added 10 points. The Crimson Tide was hurt by 26 turnovers.
"There are no moral victories, but our kids fought their butts off," Alabama coach Kristy Curry said.
Alabama's Ashley Williams was taken off the court on a stretcher after a collision around halfcourt during the game's final minute.
Williams lay on her side for several minutes while receiving medical attention before she was strapped to a board and taken away.
Curry said Williams was transported to a hospital, but didn't provide information about the nature of the injury. Curry called the hospital trip "precautionary" and said Williams was conscious.
Attendance was announced at 9,010, the third-largest crowd in school history.
Alabama: It was a good effort from Alabama, which pushed Mississippi State harder than most teams in Starkville. Alabama has another chance to knock off one of the nation's top teams when it hosts No. 17 Texas A&M on Thursday.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs struggled a little defensively during the opening quarter, but recovered for a fairly easy win. Mississippi State's schedule becomes much tougher in the coming weeks with No. 6 Tennessee, No. 12 Missouri and No. 9 South Carolina on the horizon.
Alabama hosts Texas A&M on Thursday.
Mississippi State travels to face sixth-ranked Tennessee on Jan. 21.